The Comeback

Whether it’s due to stress or burnout, most of us find ourselves stuck in the occasional rut. At times it can feel like we’re trudging through quicksand, like we can’t take a deep breath, or like we’re just plain tired and uninspired. 

I spent the first half of 2015 feeling this way, preceded by most of 2014. My husband’s brother had passed away unexpectedly, my Yahoo Small Business web host had been messing with my Confident Massage CE site for several months and I had to recreate the whole thing from scratch, my husband was going through a major career shift, and I was still getting my little day spa (with recently added nail services and nail service licenses) off the ground. Sure, I was functional. But for 18-plus months I was also feeling buried in stress, grief, and pent up frustration. Life was just kind of going on without me. It got to the point where doing something as simple as loading the dishwasher or folding the laundry took all the motivation I could muster, and seeing a basic task through to completion was cause for a ticker tape parade. 

Something broke late this summer. My beloved massage therapist and I camped at Cathedral Gorge where she gave me a massage in a tent and we slept under the stars. My beloved hairstylist and I drove to Jerome and Sedona, finding inspiration in countless shops and boutiques. I drove to the Bay Area and stayed with my beloved ladyfriends who had just opened a cafe in Vallejo. I took photos at numerous cemeteries (a hobby of mine) and even sought out four filming locations from the movie Harold and Maude (my favorite!). 

While in Sedona I bought a wind chime in the shape of a black cat. I wanted to bring something home to remind me of the freedom and inspiration that comes from stepping outside of one’s bubble. This purchase motivated me to clean up my tiny backyard so my kitty would have a nice place to live. 

Power tools would've been a wise investment.

Power tools would’ve been a wise investment.

My backyard is tiny. The trees and shrubs had been growing wild for three years and it was a mess. But a snip here, a trim there, some Amazon bargain shopping and four trash cans of yard waste later…and voila! My tiny gothic meditation garden had become a reality. It’s not much, but for me this was a big accomplishment. 

Skeleton and kitty.

Skeleton and kitty.

And so began the comeback. I’m blogging again, both here and here. I’m working on a new CE course. I just found a new spa product line to retail. I added some new services to my menu. I registered for an intense, intriguing CE course on end of life issues. I even printed out a ream’s worth of MSDS sheets for the office (and promptly replaced my black ink cartridge). 

Chances are I’ll encounter the funk again at some point, but man, it sure does feel good to embrace the comeback.

Closing Down

Today’s guest post comes to us courtesy of Tracy Bradley. Tracy has been practicing massage therapy since 2003 in rural Arkansas. When not massaging she can be found sipping Cherry Coke, watching cat videos, reading massage discussions, or hanging out with her family. She publishes a client-centered blog at The Comfort Zone Massage. Her 8-year-old daughter creates stories about her two zany cats at Cat With a Chat. Tracy is moving over a hundred miles from home to begin a new adventure with her family!

***

One month and then my massage business is closed. A month. No more clients, no more sheets, no more hot towels, no more. I feel like I’ve never done this before even though I left a different place 4 years ago. I wasn’t as emotionally involved with that place, I suppose. This place, this business is like home. I’m leaving home.

What will I do with my hands now? Will they miss the feel of flesh gliding under their fingers? Will my skin shrivel up and dry out without the daily use of massage oil? My hands, who have caressed, kneaded, rocked, pushed, pulled, rubbed, and comforted humans for the past 12 years, won’t know what do anymore. Will they lead me around searching for an aching shoulder like a forked limb leads one to “witch a well” for water? I apologize in advance to those I hug. My hands will surely try to massage your back and shoulders in what should be a brief moment.

Have you ever closed your business? Have you ever had to tell your massage clients you’re moving away and never coming back? It’s a difficult task.  After almost 4 years working as a massage therapist in a small town I’m moving away. Telling loyal, regular, make-their-appointment-before-they-leave clients is one of the most emotional things I’ve ever done.  The first eight years of my massage career were extremely part-time. The past four years were more than full-time. They were full emersion. I fully devoted most of my brain, heart, and soul to growing this business and caring for my clients. And now it ends.

I spent the week telling clients I’m leaving. A few were devastated. Most were supportive of my family’s new opportunity.  We cried. We hugged. We talked it out.

I will miss these people. Even with “good boundaries” relationships are developed. People talk. Living in such a small town many of us go to the same church, family members work together, kids attend the same schools, we go to fundraisers together, etc. We conduct our lives side-by-side. Boundaries are there but they are different than someone who lives in a place they never see their clients outside work.

All this said, I’m ready for a break. I’ve been “all in” for quite a while to make sure I supported the family while my husband was in college. I loved it most of the time. The Hustle becomes such a rush!  You try something to get more clients and your week fills up!  You write a blog and people read it and tell you they like it.  You develop a way of doing things, communicating with your clients, and operating your business. You get shit done. You try a new promotion that flops but it is still a rush because you get to brainstorm again. It never stops: the planning, writing, researching, talking, etc. It can’t stop if you want to stay busy.

I’m tired. I’m ready to shut that part of my brain off for a while. I’m ready to see if there is a Tracy inside me. She wants to laugh and smile and read and write and play and stuff.

Transition

This is a guest post from our friend Michelle Giles, a Phoenix, Arizona based massage therapist and continuing education provider. You can learn more about Michelle here

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You are a well-oiled machine. Body mechanics spot on. You’ve learned exotic massage techniques from all over the world.  You use many interesting products. Your sacred work space is beautiful. You love your clients. After 10 years you’ve hit your professional stride…or was that a wall?…made of bricks.  

Wait. How many treatments have you been doing a day? Between six and eight. Are you taking breaks in between sessions? Very few, with clients stacked back to back. Since school ended you have been striving, building, advertising, networking and flexing your boundaries and schedule to accommodate clients, never considering how this might impact your body. After all — you love what you do. 

I injured my right arm, shoulder and chest wall simultaneously last January. I didn’t feel it coming — no aches, no warning shot, nothing overtly physical. The signs were there. Subtle things. Things that can be mistaken for general fatigue; a neck ache, headache, or malaise that drifts into life from time to time. It’s easy to get lulled into a feeling of comfort when business is great. It’s also easy to get lazy with self care when you feel good and nothing hurts. 

I tried slowing down, putting more space between clients, getting acupuncture and physical therapy. After a few weeks of that routine, the reality of the situation weighed heavily on me. I was really hurt. Not “get a massage, take a few days and sleep it off” hurt, but “out of commission” hurt. Stubbornly, I still saw a few clients a day for another week. I refused to acknowledge that I was hurt — after all, I had worked so hard to build this. Then a miracle arrived disguised as a disaster — my landlord sold my studio out from under me. I lost my office and was forced to take a break. It was the best thing that could have happened to me.

Once home, I did some research. I read articles about injury and professional burnout.  One fact stood out from the rest: “The burnout rate within the massage industry has been estimated at 50% to 88% within the first 3 to 5 years after graduation according to a study completed by Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals, a reputable industry organization.” I am not sure how many of us know and absorb that statistic. I have been a full time massage therapist for 15 years, and had no idea it was that high. 

I was depressed for about a week, alternately sleeping and crying.  An MRI revealed severe tendinosis and RSI injuries surrounding the area, and it would take between one and 5 years to heal completely. My PT was very honest with me — no amount of therapy could help at this stage. I felt frenzied, I wanted to will it better with salves and treatments. The simple truth was rest and accept.

Looking for gifts within life’s challenges is tough. My mind wanted to ruminate on loss. I made the conscious choice to use this time to reinvent and rethink my entire approach.  Epiphany: I was in the next stage of my career. I was fortunate enough to be able to take seven months off. This is what I did with that time:

  • Sold most of my belongings from my old office to create a new environment
  • Designed a 200 square foot massage office in the garage behind my house
  • Designed and built (enter my husband’s building skills) 8 large wooden planter boxes to grow herb and plants to make infused oils and salves. Also functions as a courtyard space to separate work and home
  • Learned to use Himalayan salt stones instead of hot stones
  • Learned to use Chinese cups and gua sha tools
  • Bought a product called Armaid to begin rehabbing my arm
  • Learned how to foam roll and use racquet balls for self care
  • Applied for and received my continuing education provider number enabling me to teach continuing education classes out of my new space
  • Learned how to create my own scrubs, soaks, lotions, lip balms and deodorant
  • Created my own website with the free ABMP tool (simplistic, but great)
  • Rested, stretched, soaked, and focused on my new self care needs

I had emailed my client list when I began my sabbatical, emailed them again when the office was done, then emailed a small group of regulars to let them know I was coming back in July…slowly. I began by taking one client a day a few days a week for a month. Then two clients a day a few days a week for two months. After two months, I emailed the rest of my clients announcing I was back to work. It has been seven month since I have been back.  I only see three clients a day. I schedule morning, afternoon and evening- leaving hours in between each. No compromises. My clients have loved the new modalities, the fresh space, and knowing no one is stacked right after them. They take their time, and so do I. What a change. My patience and new approach has paid off, and last week I realized my arm doesn’t hurt at all anymore. I will never return to my old way of doing business; it was outmoded.

Professional transition is inevitable. As our bodies age and change, so should our approach. Self care, exercise and diet need also change as we do. What worked in the beginning of our careers won’t always work. 

Injury is a great teacher.

On Bullies, Adulthood, and Knowing Better

Hi. I’m Andrea, I’m thirty-six years old, and I was bullied the other day.

Six days a week I work out of my very own office. One day a week I work somewhere else, with other people. This is where it happened. Basically, without going into too much detail, a group of women who hang out in the break room every day decided they would enact a new appointment booking procedure whereby (despite my having seniority and being one of the original employees who opened the spa) I would be the last person to book because I deserved the least amount of appointments because I only work there one day per week. (Please keep in mind this has never been the booking policy here, and most likely never will be. Also, keep in mind that these women are all massage therapists, same as me, and do not have any authority over anything.)

Although I am not typically the target of this group, the ever-mired break room crew has been making the work sitch crappy for various coworkers of mine for years. Through the magic of mob mentality and safety in numbers, they take appointments from others and manipulate the book like a game of massage therapy Tetris, the ultimate goal being more appointments in less time so they can make their money and leave early. (We close at 7pm, and God forbid they book a 6pm.)

This crew talks about other service providers and staff members behind their backs constantly, and on rare special occasions, to their faces. It’s very Mean Girls, and I’ve never been OK with it. It’s negative, stressful and draining, and sometimes it makes what should be a great experience working at a beautiful facility with a highly skilled team a flat-out nightmare.

You may be wondering how your humble narrator reacted when blindsided by the mob on this fateful day. Sweet Jesus, it wasn’t pretty. As much as the break room crew was hoping to get their jabs in and head for the hills, I no doubt surprised them when I said we were “going to talk about this now”. And then the ugly cry of a million emotional shit storms emerged, I blubbered some colorful language (not directed at any people in particular, mind you), and basically said if they didn’t want me to work there anymore, they should just tell me. In fact, it went down very much like this emotional episode that I blogged about last month. Then I holed up in my massage room for the next forty-five minutes and sobbed like a wee babe.

You know what was the worst part of this whole debacle? I thought these people were my friends. Writing this down now, I realize how little sense that makes. “Why would I be friends with meanies?” is the first question that comes to mind. The answer is that I see the good in people as much as I possibly can. I remember the times when they’ve been generous, or sympathetic, or funny, or supportive. But now that I see their toxicity and insecurity with new eyes, I question their motivation behind everything, ever. I do not like feeling this way.

In chatting with a bunch of self-employed massage therapist buddies since this went down, I’m struck by how much the avoidance of coworker drama has to do with their decisions to go into business for themselves. Some of them have tried working for/with others, and have experienced workplace bullying firsthand. Some would honestly like to give spa employment a try, but they’ve heard so many stories about workplace bullying and drama that they’re hesitant to go there (and maybe, sadly, rightly so). Spa drama is such a widespread problem there’s even a training course out there meant to address “dangerous drama levels” in the workplace – taught by massage therapist, continuing education provider and spa consultant Eric Stephenson. Imagine that!

Although this post is focused on a sad day in the life of this blogging massage therapist, I’ll grab the opportunity to point out some other irritating examples of bullying in adulthood that I’ve been noticing as of late:

  • wife bullies husband (put downs, guilt trips, extreme negativity, unnecessary conflict and drama)
  • boss bullies employees (abuse of power)
  • manager fears being bullied by bully employees
  • adult child bullies parent or parents (financial gain, manipulation)
  • crooked, shady townspeople bully other townspeople (control of information)
  • grandmother bullies the entire family (pick a reason)

And it makes me sick.

I don’t know what the solution is. I’ll freely admit I was an unhappy teenager. I was judge-y, scowl-y, and mean to a lot of people who didn’t deserve it. In adulthood I now understand that I was depressed, paralyzed by anxiety, painfully insecure, and trying to find my way out of a bad situation in the best (albeit misguided) way I knew how. Now I’m sorry for causing hurt, and I know I can never get those wasted days back. At some point I realized that dumping more negativity on top of my already low self-esteem was a stupid idea, so I evolved. I wonder: Do other meanies want to be happy? To stop hurting others? To evolve?

For my own good, I should probably just give up on trying to understand how other humans think. Instead of wasting time wondering “why did picking on that person ever seem like a fab idea to that other person?” I should be hitting the gym to get my obturator internus in competition form, and learning to play Tiny Tim’s Greatest Hits on the theremin. Yet I continually attempt to make sense of nonsensical human behavior. I guess I feel the need to be more knowledgeable today than I was yesterday, so I can convince myself that I’m making progress as I convulse around our little world in a manner not unlike a marionette suspended by woefully tangled strings.

I can’t promise you we won’t be blessed with a visit from a bullying internet troll, but I like to think of The Young Thumbs as a relatively safe place to discuss general goings on that don’t sit right with us. Do you have a story to share or some wisdom to dispense? Feel free to unleash it on the comments section below (because unlike humans, The Young Thumbs comments section does not have any feelings, and kinda likes the abuse). <3

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

******

I still don’t know what I was waiting for

And my time was running wild

A million dead-end streets

Every time I thought I’d got it made

It seemed the taste

Was not so sweet

David Bowie

 

I’m sitting here at the Toyota dealership, waiting for two hours while they change the oil in my trusty ride. I’m four days out from Young Thumbs Posting Day, which is about ten days behind schedule, according to my manic brain calendar.

I’m not implying that YTPD is a dread-inducing event. To the contrary, the opportunity for catharsis is of immeasurable value to me (and hopefully to you, too!). I’ve just been busy on a few fronts: some good, some shitty, some personal and off-limits, and some made up of an enticing blend of personal-meets-professional-meets-business-meets-art-meets-community-meets-fun-meets-good-great-awesome! Yeah, let’s go with that one.

Friends and lovers, I am starting my own damn business. I view this as a huge step for your humble narrator, because although I’ve been e-pubbing, hanging out on the faceplace, and grading online continuing education quizzes at ConfidentMassage.com for a solid year or more, that stuff has all been virtual, and safely nestled within the protective cocoon of distance and quasi-anonymity that shields one from taunts predicated on shoddy off-time grooming habits and cheesy jammy-sportin’. Now things are gettin’ really, really, real.

 

When it’s all too late

It’s all too late

Change

You can change

Tears For Fears

 

A brick-and-mortar spa biz of my very own. A small enterprise; a nugget, if you will. A special space designed to my own specifications, with a service menu to match. A creation I’ve been dreaming of for years, kept sitting on its shelf, aging like a fine wine or cheese, until playing it safe was no longer safe, and I was ready to identify and seek out the optimal conditions to prepare for lift-off.

10…9…8…7…

 

 

Fear is a self-defeating emotion. I am not afraid of challenges, but I am aware. I am aware that entering into a living, breathing building – no, community – full of creative people and strong personalities can come with an adjustment period, and that the interpersonal unknowns and complications that come from interacting with any group of humans can be interesting, to say the least. But shit, this happens every time I start a new job, or meet a new client! I got this!

6…5…4…

 

We’re tribal companions, you and I. I hope I can rely on support from my usual, trusted sources, and I look forward to finding support in new and unexpected places. Looking back to the very first Young Thumbs post on putting your authentic self out there, naked and exposed, feedback be damned, the words ring just as true in this situation. I’m honing my schedule, and reallocating assets like time, energy, and brain space. If you’re not on board, someone else wants your seat. Kindly make room, and thanks.

3…2…

 

 

This journey began for me 30-something years ago, blanketed in the warmth of parental love and healthy touch. Today the caravan includes my supportive spouse, who has done more to fire up the engines on this small business adventure than I thought possible, exceeding my expectations in every way. And you’re here too! I will do my best to make you all proud! Please stay tuned, and for chrissakes, if you get the impression that I don’t have as much free time to spend with you as I used to, come find me in the construction zone that is now my office. We’ll drink hot beverages on overturned paint buckets and catch up.

1… . . .

 

The line it is drawn

The curse it is cast

The slow one now

Will later be fast

As the present now

Will later be past

The order is rapidly fadin’

And the first one now

Will later be last

For the times they are a-changin’

Bob Dylan

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Andrea Lipomi is a licensed massage therapist and esthetician who lives and works in Las Vegas, Nevada. She also peddles massage therapy ebooks and NCBTMB-approved continuing education courses at ConfidentMassage.com, will travel hundreds of miles for a fantastic spa experience, and craves dark chocolate and Depeche Mode’s upcoming tour dates on an almost daily basis.